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All Posts Tagged With: "Coin Doctors"

Laura Sperber: 2010 IN REVIEW-MY VISION

EVERYTHING WRITTEN HERE IS THE SOLE OPINION OF THE AUTHOR.

2010

What a year it was. We saw gold hit a new record and the stock market made a semi come back. The coin market had what I would call a turbulent but productive year. Prices did not go up as much as good coins weren’t being drowned by dreck anymore. There actually has been a small influx of new collectors.

It was also great year in the sense of we dragged certain taboo subjects (like gradeflation, coin doctoring, etc) through the mud and brought them out in the publics eye in the nick of time. While the bad guys all have been pissed off, it unquestionably has given the collecting public a better feeling and renewed sense we can self police ourselves and that some of the “leadership” of the hobby does indeed care. Consumer confidence is critical to having coins rise in value and maintaining a healthy marketplace.

I do NOT regret saying or doing what I did to help make coins and the coin market a better place.

COIN DOCTORING

Exposing how bad the coin doctoring issue had become, was by far the MOST important POSITIVE thing to have happened. Had everyone just kept their heads turned and let these criminals rape coins and the coin market, it would have killed the hobbies future.

PCGS took a heroic lead in firing off a lawsuit with absolute hard evidence against a small crew. Other coin small to mid size docs took notice and are running scared. Now, PCGS is coming out with even more sophisticated technology to catch these guys and hopefully make them stop forever. I knew this was a critical problem when the Kutasi Collection of $10’s and $20’s was sold a few years ago and the putty was so thick on many coins sometimes you could not see all the details! I do not regret standing up and speaking out about this subject when it was really taboo to do so. Just passing on a coin certainly was not stopping the doctors fromtheir reign of destruction. In my opinion, destroying a coin should be considered a full criminal act. These low lifes are taking away the few pieces of original history we have and are slowly ruining our enjoyment of collecting. They deserve to be harshly punished and shamed.

The grading services are definately doing their share to work on the problem, however I am disgusted with so many retail dealers who will not speak out. No, its not just the lame PNG (next topic), but the dealers who want to be your friends, the ones who can’t grade for crap, or have huge web sites. They are greedy cowards in my book, worth no more than the bad slabs they sell. There needs to be a shake out of these people.

I know there is still a long, long way to go in this fight. A few major firms who still employee doctors are still quietly practicing thinking they are just too big to tackle. I believe in 2011 they will be exposed and will fall. Its a matter of compiling more evidence. They certainly have been frustrasted at the very least in 2010. At least this issue is moving forward and not backwards. I hope this year to get more people speaking out. EVERY voice is important-no matter what size collector you are! (more…)

Opinion: Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – SO WHATS (NOT) NEW?

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics

MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!

NOT! I can not believe how lethargic and pathetic the leadership of the coin business has become. PCGS launched their lawsuit back in May. Other than scaring the greedy bastards into slowing their dirty deeds-NOT MUCH ELSE HAS HAPPENED. No hobby groups have stood up what so ever and done anything about the situation. The attitude among dealers still seems to that the grading services are there to be abused.

I think its a crime that the best the PNG could do is announce they have a definition of coin doctoring. Whuppie! Did they do anything? Apparently not a damn thing. They are hiding behind the lamest of lame excuses (they are a reactionary, not proactive group). The perpetrators named in the suit got caught (by their own stupidity) still trying to ruin coins yet again recently (the evidence was even posted in Coin World). Even better, at the ANA Show this past summer one of the parties in the suit set up and proudly displayed his PNG banner at his table! What a slap in the face to those of us who do care. I know the PNG’s time has come and gone. They do nothing and are nothing for this coin biz-in MY opinion. Their PNG Days prior to major shows not only have become a show case for the parts of their membership they refuse to punish, they are a complete joke anyway (one must be invited for admission-how arrogant and stupid). I hope the PNG tries to prove me wrong about their total waste and ineffectiveness.

My head hurts from shaking so much after seeing what they are NOT doing! Besides, we all know its not the entire group of PNG dealers who are bad-so where are the innocent ones? You telling me they have little to no powers on these critical issues? Just more of a point about the bad dudes who apparently control that organization. if they wanted too, they could chase after and maybe even prevent coin doctoring-btye clearly choose not too. Looks like I will never have to pay $1,000.00 I promised for anyone the PNG catches and expels for coin doctoring. Yeah PNG, I am grandstanding for attention (NOT)! -at least I am not sitting on the sidelines with rose colored glasses doing nothing about all this!

Its not just them. I have only seen a handful of smaller dealers-the ones who get screwed by the coin docs perpetually stand up and make statements. Where are all the other big shot retailers? Why I am the lone wolf speaking out? But then I guess when you have a coin doc who sits behind your table and who sells you a lot of coins cheap your not going to complain about them. This doesn’t rock the boat culture has to change. Its for the good of the hobby for the long term.

READ THIS AND WEEP

Many people ask me why I do not like so many other dealers. It has nothing to do with them being competition. It has to do with them not caring or worse, they are phonies. One of the problems in today’s coin market place-many of the “newer” dealers just can not grade. That’s right, give them a raw coin out of the holder and they are clueless. Sadly, they have the best web sites and act like they are kings and hook the public. They are just one more means keep to the coin doctors longevity going. These unqualified dealers certainly are not going to be involved in stopping the coin docs. But we can make them change since they are too dumb to know what to do. Yet again, I call for more public scrutiny of dealers. (more…)

GUEST COMMENTARY: Coin Doctors – CAN’T STOP NOW

All Editorial and Commentaries posted on CoinLink represent the opinions of the author(s), who are soley responsible for this content. All points of view are encouraged and comments are welcomed.

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics Blog

I say a heart-felt thanks to everyone who has emailed me support concerning the fight against coin doctors the past several months. Due to my hectic travel schedule, sometimes I just can’t respond to all your emails-but do know I read EVERY SINGLE ONE!

EVEN IF YOU ARE A NOT BIG DEALER, YOU COUNT

Every single person counts and is needed in this fight. Every single person has a voice that counts. Do not think there is nothing you can do.

You do not have to right on a blog like I do, you can just talk to your fellow collectors or dealers, at shows, clubs, or wherever. Send an email or a letter to the grading services, the numismatic organization, or the coin papers. The more “pressure” that is put applied, the better the results will be. If people don’t speak up it will be back to biz as usual for these bad guys.

A small dealer came up to me at the PCGS Invitational. He told me “I support you 100%”. He told me how badly he HATES the docs and anyone who is a mule for them. He told me how he has told one dealer friend why he won’t do business with him anymore and how he shoos away the docs from buying his coins. But he was upset because he felt he has no where to speak out. I told him if he can write a letter to an editor of a publication that’s great. I also told him-his voice has already spoken and he is a HUGE help. He definitely has the “RIGHT” attitude. Just imagine if very non doc did what he did-or had his attitude. I believe he also told me he is quitting the PNG.

At this point, the PNG has PROVEN (to me, in my opinion) with out any doubt to be the most WORTHLESS organization ever formed in coins when it comes to protecting the consumer and the coins themselves. As predicted, the PNG came up with a definition of coin doctoring and then all has been quiet since. I was totally disgusted that one of the PROVEN trouble makers of the PCGS lawsuit proudly displayed his PNG flag and was set up and doing business PNG day. That is a slap to EVERYONE (from the smallest collector to the biggest dealers). Meanwhile a high ranking PNG official told me he thought I was grandstanding on these issues for publicity. That’s why nothing makes me prouder than NOT being a PNG member.

I BELIEVE THIS IS THE BACKBONE OF TODAY’S PROBLEMS

Nothing disgusts me more than how dealers-especially young dealers disrespect the coin business. I watch the brightest potential talent all lean toward being “crack out” dealers and eventually fading in to full coin doctoring. Why isn’t the PNG working to scare them straight? Why can’t they educate them that coins are a treasure that need to be carefully saved in their original form? We desperately need to break this negative attitude or in 20-30 years it is a real possibility that the % of coins that will have been messed with in as high as 50%. The docs are all about making money. They will do whatever they can to a coin to gain a profit.

All the dealers refuse to blame their buddies or are in pure denial about the issues. So many dealers tell me I am so wrong and that its the grading services who should catch the bad coins. Here is what they need to wake up too: DEALERS WHO FEEL ITS THEIR RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE GRADING SERVICES SUBMISSION CONTRACTS AND FRAUDULENTY SUBMIT “WORKED ON” COINS. Key word: FRAUD. These guys should not only be exposed, but they should be forced to pay back ALL their ill gotten gains in multiples and perform numismatic community service of retraining and supporting dealers from NOT being doctors.

THE PCGS LAWSUIT HAS STARTED TO SHOW SOME CHANGE

I was speaking with John Albanese (the founder and finalizer at CAC). He confirmed to me that the amount of “messed with” coins he has seen since the lawsuit has been seriously reduced. That’s a huge plus. But that does not mean these rats are on the run. As evidenced in a Coin World Article recently, even after the lawsuit was filed one of the defendants still had the disgusting audacity to be ready to doctor more coins. So as you can see, this is nasty and serious war against sick and greedy individuals. (more…)

How to Detect Doctored Coins? The PCGS “Coin Sniffer”

The PCGS Coin Sniffer™, a process incorporating advanced technology for detecting foreign materials and other enhancements on a coin’s surface, will be used in two roll-out phases on all PCGS Secure Plus™ submissions with the first step beginning in September or October 2010.

“When our testing and development are completed, the PCGS Coin Sniffer will analyze the surfaces of coins to detect foreign substances, whether they are organic or inorganic materials. We will begin first with organic substances,” said Don Willis, President of PCGS, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ).

“We are currently testing the detection of organic materials on coin surfaces and will begin incorporating that process on all PCGS Secure Plus submissions this fall. We are still in the development stage of detecting inorganic foreign materials, such as metals. Implementation of the PCGS Coin Sniffer for inorganic materials is planned for early 2011,” he told attendees at the PCGS Set RegistrySM awards luncheon at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Boston on August 13, 2010.

The PCGS Coin Sniffer uses dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), Fournier Transform Infra-Red Spectral analysis (FT-IR), Raman Spectroscopy and other analytical techniques to detect the kinds of materials applied by so-called “coin doctors” to conceal problems with a coin or alter its surface to improve its appearance in an attempt to artificially increase the coin’s value.

Commonly used organic materials applied to coins include plastic resins such as Bondo, putty, caulk, wax, lacquer, varnish, acrylics, paint, ink, acetone, glue, and citric acid.

“Some coin doctors have even used soap, eggs, fertilizer, forehead and nose grease and urine,” Wills explained.

FT-IR spectroscopy in the PCGS Coin Sniffer process uses a beam of infra-red light that is reflected off a coin’s surface to detect molecules of foreign substances. Different molecules vibrate at different wave lengths. A complete analysis of a coin’s surface with simultaneous detection of all wave lengths can be completed in less than one minute.

Coins detected with foreign substances are classified by PCGS as “altered surfaces.”

Willis explained that some coin doctors use metals to build up certain areas on a coin’s surface, for example, attempting to create a full head on a Standing Liberty quarter, full split bands on a Winged Liberty/Mercury dime or improving diagnostic high areas. Metallic solutions such as solder, indium, Clorox®, iodine and potassium or potash have been applied to alter a coin’s surface.

Beginning next year, the PCGS Coin Sniffer will use EDX technology to analyze elements of coins on the atomic level. The FT-IR technology that will be implemented this fall analyzes coins on the molecular level. In the EDX process, a high-energy beam of electrons is focused on a coin’s surface. Resultant dispersed energy is measured and the atomic structure is determined.

“It’s similar to scanning with an electron microscope,” said Willis. “Foreign metals as well as metal fatigue due to high heat from a blow torch or laser can be detected.”

Willis also reminded the audience that expanded “plus” (+) grading is now available for all standard submissions and show submissions to PCGS at no additional cost.

Since 1986, PCGS experts have authenticated, graded and certified more than 20 million coins from around the world with a declared value of over $20 billion. For additional information, visit www.PCGS.com or call PCGS Customer Service at (800) 447-8848.

Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – BACK TO HELL?

THIS ARTICLE SOLELY REPRESENTS THE OPINION OF LAURA SPERBER

At the Baltimore Show I heard many rumors about the PCGS lawsuit. One was great-but also was especially disturbing.

That rumor was that PCGS and some of the “named” defendants in the suit were discussing a possible settlement. That news is terrific! Or is it? I should point out what I heard is ONLY rumor and I have not spoken to anyone from PCGS about it. Legend FULLY supports PCGS in this lawsuit and its efforts to stop coin doctors.

PCGS is absolutely deserving of being refunded with penalty for all the damages these disgusting people have caused to them. A note to promising to cease probably will be included in any settlement. So I started to think, if there should be a settlement where does that leave the rest of us? The others who have been damaged by coin doctors actions with no restitution?

I believe it leaves us right back where we started. The coin doctors will just continue on their merry way. Sure, one small group is down, but the others all got away-with out so much as even a slap on the wrist (assuming there is a settlement). Of course since I had my meeting with my favorite party club of dealers-The PNG, they have issued only one statement and seem to be intent of claiming to try and define what makes up the standard for a coin being doctored (my bet is they will NEVER end the debate). Of course that will have to wait until their next meeting, then the board has to discuss, yada, yada.

EVERYONE MUST TURN ON THE PRESSURE NOW

Collectors, its going to be up to you to make changes apparently. Talk to your dealers. If they do not become vocal about this, before you walk out the door for good, ask what they could possibly be afraid of? How can any dealer not see coin doctoring as a serious crime? Ignoring it will not make the dirt bags who do it stop. Do they really believe this does not affect them? So far I have only seen 3-4 dealers actually speak up. All others seem to be hiding on corners.

Anyone who cares needs to speak up NOW. Keep writing letters to the PNG. Write letters to Coin World. Discuss the subject on the gossip boards. Write the grading services too.
(more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS Lawsuit Against Alleged Coin Doctors

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #3

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

Welcome to the third installment of my column. I had planned to write more about auctions and about current demand for rare Liberty Seated coins. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the most important lawsuit in the history of coin collecting: The PCGS lawsuit against six named individuals and other not yet named individuals regarding coin doctoring is pathbreaking and earth shattering.

Even if the PCGS does not prevail on all points or against all defendants, the educational value of this suit, and the impact that it will have on coin doctors, goes way beyond the fate of these defendants. For legal reasons, I will not comment on the defendants in this suit. I am asserting that a significant number of coin doctors who are not defendants will be discouraged by this lawsuit from doctoring coins.

The PCGS SecurePlus™ program, which was inaugurated in March 2010, also discourages coin doctoring. For some discussion of the ‘plus’ aspect of the program and my idea as to how the NGC can discourage coin doctoring, please see last week’s column.

Under the SecurePlus™ program, submitted coins are scanned, for purposes of identification, with CoinAnalyzer devices. The PCGS will be able to identify each scanned coin if it is submitted to the PCGS again in the future, and, when a match is found, the submitted coin will be closely compared to an image of the same coin that was taken when it was previously submitted. Changes in the appearance of each matched coin will be investigated. The positive effects of the SecurePlus program, though, will build very gradually over a period of many years. This lawsuit will be extremely effective at discouraging coin doctoring in the near future.

Four years ago, when coin doctoring was rampant in the dealer community, had PCGS officials threatened a coin doctor with a lawsuit, the coin doctor probably would have figured that PCGS officials were bluffing. I am almost certain that this is the first time that a grading service has sued some of its dealer-members for submitting coins that are allegedly doctored and misrepresented.

Now, if PCGS officials threaten a coin doctor with a lawsuit unless he stops submitting doctored coins to the PCGS, the threatened individual is likely to take the threat very seriously and believe that the PCGS might actually follow through with a suit. Yes, I realize that not every coin doctor will be deterred by the threat of a lawsuit. Most will be deterred, at least to an extent. (more…)

David Lawrence Rare Coins View on PCGS’ Hard Stance Against Coin Doctors

Guest Commentary By John Feigenbaum – David Lawrence Rare Coins

On Friday, May 28, the numismatic community learned of lawsuit filed by Collectors Universe (the parent company of PCGS) against a group of so-called coin doctors. There’s no reason to rehash the details of this lawsuit as you can find good information on the Coinlink.com site, including a PDF of the actual filing.

From my perspective, action against the “coin doctors” has been overdue. For years, these guys have enjoyed an unfair advantage in the U.S. coin market and their presence in the general marketplace and auctions made it more difficult for legitimate buyers to compete. But we all accepted their existence because these folks have been around as long as there was a profit to be made in artificially improving coins. The grading services were designed originally to eliminate this scourge, but these guys are good and their methods are ever-improving. The extent of the doctoring of late has been somewhat hidden during this time, so some of the revelations in the filing are news, even to me. Now, it seems PCGS has drawn a line in the sand and they are throwing the book at some known offenders. More like a hammer, actually.

The heart of the matter seems to lie in the definition of exactly what is meant by the term “coin doctoring”. Are we talking about the dipping, or conservation of a coin’s surfaces? Are we talking about artificial toning of a coin to cover past cleaning, or scratches? Or, are we talking about the most nefarious acts of moving metal (whizzing, lasering) and surface alteration, like the enhancement of the bands of a Mercury dime to achieve the Full Bands (FB) designation?

I absolutely applaud PCGS for taking this measure. It has been too long in coming and it’s high time the leaders of the coin market took a stand against the alteration of a coin’s surface to deceive the grading houses.

In filing this suit, PCGS has aimed a missile at the latter-mentioned offenders. The so-called “metal movers”. There is no room for argument in any of our minds that this is wrong and should be dealt with harshly. Clearly PCGS has known about these guys for some time because the examples they present in the brief acknowledge a “rebuilt full head standing quarter” back in 2005. So, why now? The most logical conclusion I can make is that – for too long — they hoped the problem would end on its own through better detection techniques, and now they have also announced something called a Coin Sniffer™, for this purpose. I suppose this is the other shoe in PCGS’ “Big One” announcement back in March.

So, if lasering, re-engraving and rebuilding are obviously wrong and (perhaps) criminal acts (see paragraph #47), the bigger question is what is the low-watermark standard for coin doctoring? Is adding any foreign substance to the surface of a coin to conceal damage of any kind (hairlines, gouges, etc) going to be considered “doctoring”?

I would like to see PCGS take the next step of defining what is legitimate conservation versus doctoring. Perhaps a consortium of industry leaders like PCGS, NGC, CAC and PNG could work together to create such a document. It’s not clear that PCGS is interested in doing so, but I hope they would consider such a move to unify the marketplace. (more…)

Commentary: Thoughts on the PCGS Lawsuit Against Coin Doctors

Below is a Hot Topics Article posted on www.LegendCoin.comCoinLink has reproduced it in it’s entirety. This article is the opinion of the author, Laura Sperber.

KUDOS PCGS!

Please, no one pinch me, this is one dream I do not want to end. My sincere congratulations to David Hall and Don Willis for taking the ultimate step in the fight on coin doctors-filing a lawsuit!

For years the situation with coin doctors has only been growing more desperate. The grading services have been fighting them as hard as they could privately. Every time they thought they had a handle, the coin docs just figured out new ways to continue their destruction. This lawsuit is not for glamour, rewards, or a money grab, it was a necessity. PCGS has done the absolute right thing. TO SEE A COPY OF THE SUIT, VISIT www.coinlink.com

LEGEND NUMISMATICS FULLY SUPPORTS THE COMPLAINT AND PLEDGES TO HELP PCGS BECOME VICTORIOUS.

THE DEALER CULTURE

There is a rotten to the core subculture of coin dealers close to these guys who truly believe that it is their right to doctor, recolor, or do whatever they please to coins for a living. These people have little respect and nothing but contempt for the grading services and the public. Its time they learn they are not above the law. I have already spoken to several dealers who making their living cracking out coins. They see no wrong because they do not consider themselves full coin doctors. Much to my shock, they have the attitude that PCGS is wrong and the complaint will be dismissed. WRONG!

Its mind boggling these greedy whores fail to realize is that FRAUD has been committed. One dealer said to me “Its the grading services job to not allow doctored coins to get through”. True. However, it is against the law to try and defraud them by altering the coins they submit. Once this complaint starts progressing, the peripheral players will be exposed. Those are the guys who really have to be sweating right now. They are the ones who quietly sent coins off to these guys to have the work done for them while they look clean. I think you’ll be shocked to see who some of these names are-especially including some well known longtime PNG members. Plus, sooner or later, it probably will be exposed about a few major firms who employ well known coin docs. They will be a tougher fight because they hire them and called them “conservationists or curators”. In the end, they won’t win-the evidence will be too overwhelming.

PCGS has started the fight “right”. They are not just shooting the dark, they gathered the most facts and proof possible then waited for the right opportunity to file the complaint. There never was any secret among major dealers who the real coin doctors are. Dealers like myself were helpless to fight them other than to publicly complain (if you notice few of my fellow dealers ever stood up and spoke out). I could name most docs, I know who a lot of these guys are, however I would have been sued for sure. PCGS can file suit because they have been directly harmed and they have the physical evidence with the proven patterns of deceit these guys followed. It will be interesting to see the defense tactics the defendants will employ. In my opinion, the best they can do will be to deflect and totally deny. Too bad for the docs, facts are facts-no court or jury should rule against a consumer injury by fraud. (more…)

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against “Coin Doctors” by Collectors Universe / PCGS

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) today sent out a Press Release  announcing  a major lawsuit has been filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, against six individuals claiming they engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, breach of contract, conspiracy, unfair competition and fraud for allegedly submitting “doctored” coins to PCGS for grading on multiple occasions for a period of years.

The Defendants named in the suit include: Al Rossman of Nevada, Rick Wesslink of California,  Robert Lehmann of Maryland, in addition to three members of the Professional Numismatists Guild ; Eric Steinberg of Florida, Silvano DiGenova of California, and Greg Krill of California

PCGS stated that as many as 10 other defendants could be added to the Complaint.

The suit claims the dealers violated federal laws, including the Lanham Act involving interstate commerce and RICO racketeering statutes, and also alleges “unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices” for submitting coins that were deceptively altered in an attempt to increase their value.

Click Here to view a Copy of the Complaint

The Complaint states: “Defendants knew that these coins had been ‘doctored,’ by themselves and/or other persons engaged by them for that purpose. Their methods included lasering the surfaces of extremely rare proof gold coins to remove surface imperfections, building up commonly-worn or weakly-struck portions of coins, and other physical and chemical processes. Defendants represented to PCGS that these coins had natural surfaces, intending to deceive PCGS’s graders so that the ‘doctored’ coins would be certified by PCGS and then sold in the rare coin marketplace.”

A couple of examples given in the complaint include the following coins:

  • 1885 $5 gold piece, originally submitted to PCGS on Dec 16, 2009 by Steinberg on behalf of Defendant Rossman. Foreign substance added to coin’s surface to cover marks.
  • 1879 $4 Stella gold piece, Originally submitted by Heritage on May 8, 2008. Resubmitted on August 28, 2008 by DiGenova after having been laser treated to remove lines. PCGS refused to grade the coin.

The suit claims the “Defendants have caused, and are continuing to cause, substantial and irreparable damage and injury to Collectors Universe and to the public and Defendants have benefited from such unlawful conduct and will continue to carry out such unlawful conduct and to be unjustly enriched thereby unless enjoined by this Court.” (more…)